From Ahmed Abubakar, Dutse
The Jigawa state deputy governor, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, has said that the government was committed towards providing a paramilitary outfit for the protection of farmers against encroaching herdsmen. He also spoke on other issues of interest.
Why did the Jigawa state government sponsored a bill in the State House of Assembly that imposes severe sanctions on herdsmen that encroached on farmlands?
When we came into office, at our council meeting the issue of farmers/fulani came up, which is a perennial issue. So the council decided that a committee be set up to look into this issue, and the committee was chaired by my good self. It comprises emirs, farmers, herdsmen, and representatives of virtually all the security agencies. The first thing I did was to call for a copy of the law establishing the farmers and herdsmen board and I went through it very carefully. I called for the inaugural meeting and by the time we listed out all the 11 problems that we believed were responsible for these clashes I came to the realization that all these problems could be solved with prudent application of that existing law.
And I explained this to the members of my team and I told them we need not waste our time meeting severally on this issue, I made copies of the law to everybody. When we had the last meeting we all agreed on a point by point basis that all the problems enumerated could be taken care of if this law was applied. What I realized was that even the members of the farmers and herdsmen board were not conversant with the law; they didn’t care or bothered to look at it. This is a law that calls for the establishment of a paramilitary group within that agency that would be responsible for guarding grazing reserves for ensuring peaceful coordination in ensuring that these herdsmen when they come in at a particular time of the year are restricted to their cattle routes and their designated places.
These rangers apart from being a paramilitary group have been empowered by that law to arrest. The powers of arrest they have are more than that of the police because they can arrest on mere suspicion while a Policeman might need a warrant, very powerful group of people of which if we had taken the time to establish them, we would have solved 70percent of the problems. This law bans night grazing. Most of the events that happen take place at night. This law bans night grazing and if you are caught grazing at night the penalty is there in the law. It provides that any herdsman that strays into any farm land and destroys the crops, the board is empowered to confiscate all his cows that participate in that destruction and the law said you should get a court order and sell them. And when you sell them you not only compensate the farmer but you also deduct the expenses for the implementation of that particular provision of the law, which include the fuelling of vehicles, the running up and down in terms of the feeding of the cows and everything is to be deducted from the sale of that cattle. This law designates cattle routes; it also calls for the control of entry and exit of herdsmen.
During Saminu Turaki’s administration we had a system that if any Fulani is coming into your state at the point of entry, he stops and he needs to have a sponsor or guarantor under a Fulani chief who would act as his guarantor that ‘yes he is coming to stay in my domain and if there is any destruction by his cattle he would be held responsible.’ And then at the point of exit he would also do his registration and shown the designated cattle routes that they are supposed to follow. Before they come in they will tell us if they coming back through that route or they are heading to another state. If you are going to Bauchi or Kano states there are designated routes for you to follow. These routes have been clearly defined by the last administration, grazing reserves have been clearly defined by the last administration, and cattle routes have been defined and enforced. Everything that is meant to cater for the easy passage of the Fulani has been enforced by the last administration. So there is nothing new that we have introduced there is no new bill no new system it is the same law and staff of the farmers and herdsmen board that are implementing these policies. We are simply waking-up to our responsibilities.
Don’t you think that this stringent government policy could affect government’s desire to stimulate farmers to go back to farms?
We are farmers’ centred government, and when I’m talking of farmers I’m talking of both farmers and pastoralists. This government is focused on agriculture and in all its ramifications, we can’t have a situation where government will take its money and put it in agriculture and encourages people to go to farms and then at the end of the day we cannot protect their crops. Three, four months a farmer has borrowed fertilizers, borrowed inputs have put all his time and effort and at the time of harvest just two, three weeks before he harvests and go to market the Fulani man would come and destroy not even eat but by the time he moves a herd of hundreds of cattle across somebody’s farm it is totally destroyed. These people are mischievous to the extent that when they meet a farm of water melon they will even use machetes to chop-off the melons so that their cows can easily eat it and digest it easily. If you challenge them they will brandish weapons and kill you.
We will not close our eyes and watch the fruits of labour of our farmers destroyed by itinerant Fulani herdsmen, not under this administration. So there is nothing new we are just applying the full force of the law.
Does this government have the intention of establishing such paramilitary outfit in the state?
Absolutely, the law provides for them, we are supposed to train them we are supposed to equip them provide them with uniforms and train them in the special method of enforcing this law. We are going to establish them, we are already discussing with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), because the civil defence also have a special unit set-up to check mate cattle rustling. So you would find out that it is also something similar, by the time we engage them with that unit we would combine them to be undergoing a joint patrol to ensure that our grazing reserves are protected.
That is what our neighbours are doing, if you go to Niger republic if you caught with one stolen cow in your herd even if it is two thousand cows, you will lose the whole two thousand. In Niger republic if you come into one state with your cattle and you are given permission to stay there if there is harvest in the farms of other states you will not be allowed one inch till the governor of the neighbouring state calls his counterpart governor and tell him our people have cleared their harvests. While you are remaining in that state you will be buying grass at your own cost for your cattle, whether you are spending one week or three weeks or four weeks, that is your lot and you will hardly hear a case of conflict. You cannot come all the way through five countries in West Africa pass through Senegal, Niger and obey all their laws and the moment you cross over into Maigatari you become lawless because you don’t want to respect our own laws here, we cannot allow that to happen.
In one of your recent meetings you faulted the police for failing to curtail Farmers/ Fulani clashes; does that mean the state government has no confidence in the police?
We can’t say we don’t have much confidence in the police. I’m talking about specific references where we provide logistics for the police to go and chase out those herders and lo and behold sometime we don’t know what happens they made arrests and sometimes we are told they’ve been released and sometimes the police goes there and farmers show them where the herders are, and they tell them they haven’t been trained to cross over water, the water that is beneath your ankle they say they cannot cross because it is not part of their training.
So we believe there are individual policemen or maybe heads of divisions who are not willing to cooperate with us, which is why the issue of establishing the paramilitary force is very important to us. These are people under our control whom we would have given the training they would require to do the job, including how to swim so that no matter where you cross to with your cattle we would be able to track you down. We have been getting supports from the police. Virtually all the arrests we have made in the two or three instances we have confiscated cows we have used the police and the civil defence to guard these cows where they are being kept and we have gotten our court orders according to the law.
We cannot say we are 100 percent satisfied, we have one or two issues, but generally I think the police have done well to support our effort.
Since your committee started working may we know how many cows that have been confiscated?
We have confiscated 58 cows in Marma. After two weeks of investigations we found out that those particular cows were not those that inflicted the damages in Marma village. We had witnesses and we released the cows to the owner and even paid for them to be transported back to his remaining herd. We have arrested another set of 18 cows in Iwo village of Kirikasnma local government which have been sold off but the amount realised was not enough to pay for the compensation. These cows were being sold in the presence of the court; in fact the court was the one that took charge of the process the last time, in the presence of Miyetti Allah, in the presence of security agents in a fair and transparent manner.
Right now we have about 30 cows in our custody. We are in the process of getting a court order to also sell those even though I understand that the owners have appeared and are trying to arrange for a settlement. What I will always say is that the law must always take its course.
The issue of grazing reserves, what is the state government doing to ensure that the grazing reserves are being preserved for the Fulani Cattle breeders?
There is no incidence that we have recorded so far that is as a result of inadequate grazing reserves or farmers blocking cattle routes. If there were farmers that have encroached into any grazing reserve the law would be applied even if you have built a house there we will destroy it. We are working for both sides, our grazing reserves are intact they are being gazetted. As it is we have gazetted about 12 out of close to 74 grazing reserves that we have and we are in the process of developing them.
Development here means physical demarcation, either with drums or some typical objects. We then try to remove poisonous weeds. The issue of grazing reserves is also one of our mentality , these people are nomadic in nature and there is no scientific report that has not shown that it is better to keep your cows in one place and feed them rather than roaming round the whole continent burning up the energy that you have. It is something that will take time to go, for it is a cultural thing and maybe when we have examples of those that have settled down and they see it physically working we will try to change some of these habits.
There is this observation by some affected farmers that lands were allocated to Dangote and Lee group companies at the detriment of farmers in those areas, what is the true story?
We have not allocated one inch of land to Dangote as I talk to you now. The one Dangote has is the one that was allocated to him for sugar by the previous government. Dangote came and wanted 20,000 hectares of land we came up with a new land policy for Jigawa state which is the land reform and resettlement framework adopted by the council. What that law stated is that we are encouraging large scale investment in farming, we are ready to give people lands even if it means dispossessing farmers of their lands on the overall public interest. But we have to do it with sense of responsibility. Part of the condition of granting people land is that if you come across a settlement whether it is farmers or Fulani that is bigger than may be 200 or 250 people we cannot do displacement .So if this is the land you want and it is a settlement of more than 200 people what we need to do is to ensure that when you come across this land we create a buffer zone around the settlement. That buffer zone should have enough space for that settlement to expand for the next 30 years. So you can’t have it, that’s why you have a situation where even Mr. Lee couldn’t get one plot of land. Those that are displaced by resettlement apart of paying them compensation you have to give us a resettlement framework which we call a livelihood restoration framework. If he is a farmer, and you have displaced him how do you restore his livelihood, if he wants to continue farming? Then he goes into your agro scheme. Mr. Lee wanted 17,000 hectares of land, he can’t have it, what we are giving his 12, 000 hectares then he has to work with out-growers to make up of the rest of the seven or eight thousand hectares. The same thing with Dangote, when we came in and what we told him was that we can’t just give you 20,000 hectares of land. No investor will sink $400 million and not own any land it is not possible, he cannot rely on people waking up one day and decided they want to grow groundnut instead of sugarcane. So you will get your land which will form your estate but a large percentage of what you need would be grown by out-growers. Dangote has now close to 2000 farmers in his out-growers scheme, he started with 260 hectares in Haggo, it was successful that the repayment rate in that scheme was 96percent and he decided that instead of the 40percent we said we will give him, he said that he only needed from 20 to 30 percent of his land requirement and let 70percent be out-growers.
Dangote is an investor and an industrialist, he is not a farmer if you come in and somebody who is running a sugar plant or a rice mill come in and say you want to focus on running the rice mill with the industrial permutations and administration and then you want to run 10,000 hectares of farm it would be too much for your health. If you can find a situation where somebody can take care of the farming, someone who has been a farmer all his life and supply you your paddy rice then administratively it is better for you, it is a win- win situation. You will not be dealing with cattle\herders, thieves, fire, rain, no rain, harvest or no harvest if you can have somebody that will take that of you and will provide means of living peacefully because if you come and displaced all these farmers after one or two years they have squandered their compensations and then they will be looking at trailers coming out of your factory everyday it is a potential problem. So it’s better to have a situation where everyone is happy. And that is what we have done.